Lost in the Dark, Cleansed in the Flame


Part Thirteen
Second Challenge

They held hands as they entered the second chamber.  Trying to discern what the next challenge would be, they had stopped at the threshold and peeked in.  The room was empty, just another cavern, so they did the only thing they could.  They stepped through the archway.

The moment they had stepped over the threshold the chamber was filled with noise, and Xander was abruptly yanked away from Spike and flung across the room.  Brushing dirt off his pants, Xander stood up to take stock of the situation.  His brow furrowed as he realized that they'd somehow stepped into a party.  Although it was a pretty stuffy party from what he could tell, more like a Giles party, or what he pictured a Giles party would be like, anyway.

There was what sounded like elevator music playing, and the people around him all looked like they'd been left behind a century.  Everyone was laughing, talking, and drinking out of little tiny glasses.  Xander tried to peer around the people milling in the room to find Spike, but he couldn't see the bleached blond anywhere.  Laughter echoed around him as he wove his way through the crowd.  


Xander's head whipped around at the sound of that name.  Cecily?  Spike's Cecily?  He turned this way and that until he caught sight of a girl surrounded by several besotted men.  Fuck!  This was Spike's challenge?  To relive that awful night?

And there, lost in the group of admirers, was Spike.  Xander's hard expression softened at the look on his lover's face.  It was a mix of awkward shyness and longing.  It was the longing that made Xander's own heart ache.  

What was he supposed to do?  How was he supposed to help?  


Even as he gazed at Cecily adoringly, Spike cringed inside.  He knew this was a challenge, he knew it wasn't real.  But it felt real.  He knew what was coming.  He had already tried to change the course of events.  He'd tried to walk away, to speak up, and to throw out that bloody awful poem!  But each time he'd attempted a change, a difference, he hadn't been able to follow through.

He knew Xander was here somewhere.  The second they'd been separated as the party had appeared Spike had tried to find him, but to no avail.  All he saw were the same party-goers that had been there a century before.  He cursed inwardly while smiling and answering each question with the proper response.

The slim piece of paper was ripped from his hand.  He made a grab for it, but of course was unable to reach it.  

"Careful. The inks are still wet. Please, it's not finished."  Spike found himself repeating the same lines he'd used that night.  To his horror he could already feel the tears begin to burn his eyes.  His gaze flitted over the crowd, landing on Cecily, whose own expression was one of shame and embarrassment.

"P-p l e a s e."  The word was stilted and stuttered in a whisper.  The one word he'd been able to say so far that had not followed the script exactly.  It was a broken plea, not for the release of the ill-fated poem, but for an end to this nightmarish rerun of his life.  Thoughts of Xander skittered through his brain.  Where was he?  Maybe he wouldn't come.  Maybe this wasn't a challenge.  Maybe something had happened and this was Spike's own little version of hell.

In the seconds he had before the poetry reading, Spike flashed back
to the actual night in question.  The night he died.  The night he was
reborn into his unlife.  If he hadn't been humiliated and heartbroken,
would he have ended up here?  Would he have ended up with
Xander?  It was possible that Drusilla would have found him no
matter whether he had attended that party or not.  He'd never know.

The highbrow Englishman's voice broke into his reverie.  "Don't be shy. My heart expands/'tis grown a bulge in it/inspired by your beauty, effulgent.  Effulgent?"

Spike felt his face twisting in hurt and a bit of anger as Cecily turned to run away and the others laughed and mocked him.  Even as his gut churned and the ache intensified he went after her.  He had no choice.


Xander watched as Spike took off after Cecily.  The expression on his lover's face was more than enough to put his feet in motion.  He followed as quickly as he could, calling out to Spike both mentally and verbally but receiving no answer.

He knew this scene, and his heart hurt for Spike already.  He knew what the burn of rejection felt like, and he knew that this was a pain in Spike's life that he'd never been able to shed.  A pain that had followed him through the years and shaped him into the man he was today.

Xander quickened his steps while he tried to figure out a way to free Spike from this challenge.  Somehow Xander knew that he only had to reach Spike, to let him know he was there and that Spike wasn't alone, for the challenge to end.  But he was at a loss as to how to do that, since he had been calling to him constantly with no results.

{Spike!}  Xander mentally shouted through the link.  {I'm here.  I love you.}  He repeated over and over.


Something tickled in the back of William's head but he shrugged it off.  Cecily had retreated to a small corner of the parlor and he wanted to go to her. To apologize and make things right between them.  In a far off haze William thought he was supposed to be remembering something.  An image of a dark haired, brown eyed man flashed before him but was quickly lost.

"Cecily?"  He smiled at her reassuringly.

"Oh. Leave me alone."  

William's smile faltered briefly, but he took a seat anyway and gestured toward the crowd.  "Oh, they're vulgarians. They're not like you and I."

"You and I? I'm going to ask you a very personal question and I demand an honest answer. Do you understand?"

William nodded at her, trying to show her with his eyes that he'd give her anything he could.

"Your poetry, it's... they're... not written about me, are they?"

"They're about how I feel,"  William answered shyly.

"Yes, but are they about me?"

"Every syllable."  Now was the time to be bold, to let her know of his true feelings for her.

"Oh, God!"

"Oh, I know... it's sudden and... please, if they're no good, they're only words but... the feeling behind them... I love you, Cecily."

"Please stop!"

He had to make her see, make her understand.  "I know I'm a bad poet, but I'm a good man and all I ask is that... that you try to see me."

"I do see you. That's the problem. You're nothing to me, William. You're beneath me."

William sat in stunned silence.  He'd always known that she was more than he'd ever hope to attain, but to be told so…callously…hurt.  Hurt beyond measure.  He stared up into the throng of people, feeling lost and rejected.  He was an outsider here, had always been.

They tolerated him only because his mother still retained some of her wealth.  He was part of society whether they wanted him or not.  So he was invited to the parties and the balls.  But he was never truly accepted.  He'd thought…he'd hoped…but even now that spark had been doused.

He stood abruptly and pushed his way through the crowd toward the exit, wiping at the tears that streaked his face.


Xander tried to stop him by grabbing the arm closest to him but Spike shrugged him off and continued toward the exit.  Xander winced when he realized what was coming next.  He'd have to find the alley, get there and try to reach through the illusion somehow.


William turned swiftly at the sound of someone entering the alleyway.  The voice that drifted towards him felt tranquil and mesmerizing.

"And I wonder... what possible catastrophe came crashing down from heaven and brought this dashing stranger to tears?"

"Nothing. I wish to be alone."

"Oh, I see you. A man surrounded by fools who cannot see his strength, his vision, his glory. That and burning baby fish swimming all around your head."

She was obviously mad.  Burning baby fish?  What was she on about?  "That's quite close enough. I've heard tales of London pickpockets. You'll not be getting my purse, I tell you."

"Don't need a purse."  She paused a moment to rake his body with her eyes.  "Your wealth lies here... and here. In the spirit and... imagination."  As she spoke she touched his heart and head in succession.  Each place she touched tingled and burned. "You walk in worlds the others can't begin to imagine."

"Oh, yes! I mean, no. I mean... mother's expecting me."  What was she doing to him?  His breathing became fast and shallow, his thoughts scattering to the winds.

"I see what you want. Something glowing and glistening. Something..." The woman was waving her hands in the air as if she could pull her meaning from it.

"Effulgent?"  A new voice joined the clatter in William's mind and he turned to see a young man at the mouth of the alley.

Xander's belly had twisted watching his lover and Drusilla together.  He knew this scene as well.  And he both loved and hated Drusilla for what she had done to Spike.  He had no idea why Spike could suddenly hear him, but he was going to take full advantage.

William flashed briefly back to the image that had come upon him earlier.  This was the young man he'd seen.  The young man he'd been trying to remember.  

Drusilla turned to hiss at him, but Xander ignored her and focused on Spike.  "Spike?"  He took a few steps closer.  "It's Xander.  This is just a challenge.  I'm here.  You're not alone.  This isn't real."  

He could see slow sparks of recognition ignite in his lover's eyes, so he continued.  "You don't need her," he gestured to the vampiress, "or them."  His hands flew backward to indicate the party they'd just left.  "You're not beneath anyone.  You're brave and wonderful and intelligent and courageous.  And I love you for all that and more."  He'd reached his goal now. Only inches away from Spike, Xander reached out to cup the vampire's cheek with a warm palm.  "I love you," he repeated quietly, just before leaning in and bringing their lips together.

The kiss was slow and chaste, their lips barely brushing.  But Xander felt the heat as always and hoped that his lover felt it as well.  When they pulled apart Xander opened his eyes to stare into the ice blue depths of Spike's.  

"Xan?"  The one word query sent Xander's heart soaring.  

"Yes," was his simple reply, and then they were kissing again.  When they broke apart they were once more in an empty cavern.  Instead of pulling out of the embrace, Spike snuggled closer, pressing his forehead against Xander's and breathing in his mate's scent.

"Thank you, luv."


They stood together for long moments.  Eventually, Xander sighed and stepped away.  He didn't relinquish Spike's hand though, wanting to keep physical contact for as long as possible.  He tugged on said hand, moving them both toward the next chamber.

"Come on," Xander urged.  "Let's get this over with.  I want to go home."

They stepped through the archway into the final challenge, once more holding hands.

Part Fourteen

For once, the room didn't undergo any surprise changes once they'd entered it.  The cavern was large and seemingly empty.  Xander wondered what their challenge was supposed to be.  From the plaque they'd read at the beginning of this crazy whirly-gig of fun, he knew it had to be some type of physical challenge.  At least his psyche would get a break for a while.

When the explosion went off it caught them both by surprise.  Xander and Spike were flung to separate sides of the room, losing mental contact with each other almost immediately.  Xander was blinded for several moments before his eyes re-adjusted and he began looking around for Spike.  

Xander wasn't particularly surprised when he discovered a clear glass wall across the middle of the room, separating Spike and himself.  He sighed.  He glanced around the room trying to determine if anything else had changed.  What was the challenge supposed to be?  Was he supposed to get to Spike?  Or was there something else he was supposed to be focusing on?

So far, the only thing Xander could see besides the glass partition was Spike.  The vampire didn't appear to be able to see him, despite Xander waving his arms frantically in a bid to gain Spike's attention.  It was almost as if he were looking through one of those police one way mirror things.  He could see Spike, but Spike couldn't see him.  And the bond they shared through the Claim was being blocked.  

On the other side of the wall, Spike was desperately trying to find a way through the barrier that had been erected between Xander and himself.  Xander could see Spike's struggles and his frustration with the impenetrable barrier.  Then a sudden movement from the corner of the room caught Xander's eye, and he watched in horror as a section of the wall slid open to reveal a large, rather scaly, demon.

Xander was at the barrier in an instant, banging against it, trying to get Spike's attention.  His lover needed to turn around before it was too late, but Spike didn't seem to hear any of his attempts.  Xander's heart was beating so hard he was afraid it was going to burst out of his chest.  His relief was palpable when at the last moment the demon cried out before lunging for Spike.  The battle cry alerted the vampire enough to maneuver out of the way, and then the fight was on.

Xander felt useless as he watched the scene from beyond the glass wall.  This was worse than all those times he'd sat at the Scooby meetings and realized that he was the only one in attendance without anything special to contribute.  He had to stand and watch while his lover fought for his life, doing nothing but hoping that Spike wouldn't need him.

Spike seemed to be holding his own without a problem, although he was constantly looking around the room.  Probably for a weapon to finally incapacitate his opponent.  Then a bright light appeared in front of Xander, forcing him to take a step back from the wall.  In front of him a picture of two weapons appeared.  To his right was a large troll axe, to his left was a long, machete-like sword.  

What was this?  Were they allowing him to pick a weapon for Spike?  What would happen once he chose one?  Would the other demon get a weapon as well?  Xander didn't want to do anything that might hurt Spike, but he also didn't want to pass up the chance to help him.  Realizing that the troll axe would probably be too cumbersome for this particular fight, he lightly touched the image of the sword.  Both pictures dissolved, and as he watched a real sword materialized within the chamber.

He wanted to yell and point and get Spike's attention but it would do no good.  So he waited.  Finally Spike spotted the new addition to the room and dove for it.  Within minutes the demon was decapitated, and the sword and body dissolved back into nothingness.

Xander was beginning to relax again, when another section of the cavern wall slid open.  This time there were two demons.  Neither were quite as large as the last, but they looked just as ferocious.  They had long, writhing tentacles and faces that looked as if they'd been smashed flat.  Xander suddenly remembered seeing them in one of Giles' books.  He couldn't remember their name, of course, but he did at least remember how to kill them.  Too bad there was no way to tell Spike.  Then the wall lit up again, and Xander studied his two choices.  

The left picture was of an ear; the right was of a mouth.  What did that mean?  If he pressed the ear would Spike be able to hear him?  Or would he be able to hear Spike?  Would the mouth allow them to talk to each other?  Xander looked beyond the glowing pictures to check on Spike.  He was still holding his own, having sent one of the demons sprawling while he worked out his aggressions on the other.  Then without warning the fallen demon rose up and tackled Spike from behind.

Spike was now struggling to release himself from the strong grip of slimy tentacles, spitting curses that Xander could practically hear.  In desperation Xander touched the image of the mouth.  The wall glowed briefly before the two images faded.  He called out to Spike, earnestly hoping he'd made the right choice.  

"Spike!"  Xander was giddy with relief when Spike's head spun at the sound of his voice.  He could see the vampire mouthing Xander's name, but was disappointed when he couldn't hear Spike's voice as well.  "Their only vulnerable spot is just over the heart.  It's just above their right tentacle, in their shoulder.  Aim for that spot."  The words rushed out of him.

He watched as Spike finally broke out of the demon's hold, spinning, and in one smooth move jabbing his hand forward into the demon's shoulder.  The hapless creature collapsed to the floor, even as Spike rounded on the other.  The battle was over in seconds; both demons dissolving into nothingness.  Xander tried to call out to Spike again, but apparently that privilege had also been revoked.

The challenge seemed to go on forever.  There were several more demon battles Xander watching helplessly until each choice was presented to him.  He could tell Spike was getting tired, as the vampire's stamina and speed were waning.  How long would this go on?  What did they have to do to finally end it?


On the other side of the glass Spike was tiring.  He was worried about Xander, wondering if he had been going through the same physical challenges that he had been.  That brief moment, seemingly hours ago, when he'd heard his boy's voice had been the only contact they'd had since they entered the chamber.  

He itched to find a way past that damn wall, but was too busy fighting for his unlife to do it.  Whatever, bloody Mountain King running this thing better not have hurt his mate, or he'd be the one hurting next.  

Spike had been repeatedly trying their link, but nothing had come of it.  He'd been without Xander's presence in his mind more in the past few days than he had in the past two years.  It was a feeling he couldn't, wouldn't, get used to.  Having Xan in his mind, in his bloody soul, was something that had become so much a part of Spike that he was sure the permanent loss of it would probably dust him.

Spike was just getting his wind when the chamber wall slid open once more.  This time his opponent was carrying a weapon, a very long, pointy, *wooden* spear.  Spike dropped into a fighting stance and waited.


Xander watched in horror as the latest demon entered the chamber.  He was carrying a wooden spear, the sight of which caused fear to lance through Xander's body.  He watched as Spike dodged each attempted stab.  The creature was either too stupid to aim for Spike's heart, or purposely going for incapacitation instead in order to prolong Spike's agony.  Either way, each jabbing thrust was aimed for Spike's stomach, the vampire's agility enabling him to jump out of the way barely in the nick of time.

In one horribly slow motion moment, Xander watched as Spike's feet were swept out from under him.  The normally quick footed vampire, slowed and tired from the previous battles, was unable to avoid the spear as the offending demon swept it across the floor and against Spike's legs.  Xander cried out as he saw his lover fall to the ground on to his back, incapable of righting himself in time.

"Noooo!"  Xander screamed as the spear plunged downward toward Spike's vulnerable flesh.

Then suddenly the scene froze; vampire and demon stilled as if statues.  The wall in front of Xander glowed.  A picture of himself stood to the left, while a picture of Spike stood to the right.  Xander didn't have to think, he made the only choice he could, pressing lightning quick on the picture of himself.  

He felt an odd tingling sensation, and then he was there, in the chamber, the demon looming above him.  He felt the searing pain as the spear made contact with his stomach and then pierced through his skin and probably several organs.  The pain dulled into a throbbing numbness.  Somewhere, faraway, he heard Spike's screams and his heart contracted at the agony in his mate's voice.  When he looked up the demon was gone, replaced by Spike's tear stained visage.  

"Spike."  The name whispered across his lips.

"Shhh...don't talk, luv." Spike pressed kisses to his face.  The demon and spear had vanished, but Xander's wounds had not.  Spike laid his palm against the gaping hole trying to stem some of the blood loss but knew it was a lost cause.

{Why, luv?}  Spike asked, the link finally restored.

{You know why, Spike.  Couldn't watch you die.}  Xander's eyes had closed, making Spike wonder how much longer they had.

{But, you expect me to watch you die!}  Spike wailed.

Xander's eyes blinked opened, and he stared into Spike's blue gaze.  {Yes.}

Spike knew what Xander was saying.  They'd discussed it years ago.  Xander had made Spike promise that if the boy were ever mortally wounded, he wouldn't try to turn him.  Spike hadn't thought too much of it at the time, thinking he had years to change his boy's mind.  Knowing that with his added consort healing abilities that a fatal wound was highly unlikely.

"Please, Xan."  He whispered the words, pleading with his eyes that Xander change his mind.

{No, Spike.  You know I can't live like that.}  Then his eyes closed again, in what seemed to Spike an extremely final gesture.  {I love you.}

{I love you, Xan.}  Spike kissed him gently on the lips.  He could tell that Xander was unconscious now, oblivious to his surroundings.  He watched his boy, listening to his fading heartbeat.

He could turn him now.  There wouldn't be anything to stop him, and by the time Xan woke up it would be too late.  Spike even went so far as lean forward and nuzzle Xander's neck, his lips finding the weak pulse point and nibbling gently.  But in the end he pulled away.  Knowing that Xander didn't want that.  That if he tried it his love might never forgive him.  And that would be worse.  Worse than having Xander gone.  Having Xander here, with him, and hating him.  He'd rather go to hell.

So he watched, and cried, and waited, until Xander's heart stopped beating and his blood stopped flowing.  And when the chamber reverted to its original form, and the hallway to their final destination opened, Spike picked up Xander's lifeless form and carried him to retrieve their prize.

Part Fifteen
The Flaming Sword

After entering the final chamber, Spike laid Xander down gently at his feet.  Dropping to his knees he grabbed onto Xander's hand, a wail forming in his throat.  

"There it is, you bloody git!"  Spike used his head to nod in the direction of the sword.  If Xander had been awake, alive, there was no way he could have missed it.  The sword burned bright, illuminating the entire room.  

Without warning the wail erupted from Spike's throat.  The sound a keening siren that bounced and echoed off the cavern walls.  "You promised, Xan.  You said nothing would happen.  You said we'd grab the bloody thing and go home."  Spike spouted angry accusations at his dead love.

He didn't know how long he knelt there, sobbing out his anger.  Eventually he stood, approaching the sword, willing himself not to smash it against the nearest wall.  Xander wanted to save the world.  Xander died trying to save the world.  And he wouldn't let that be for nothing.

As he approached the sword, the wall behind the weapon suddenly lit up, words appearing etched in the stone.  

Once Called Upon to Guard the Way
The Light of my Flame Cast Out the Dark
Before the End I Will be Called Again
Not to Guard, but Defend

Two Heroes Immortal of Necessity
At the Crucial Time Will Wield
One of Light, One of Dark
None Will Defeat their Strength of Heart

Spike wanted to scream.  Two heroes immortal?  Fuck you!  Xander was dead.  And if he had turned him and made him immortal he certainly wouldn't have been 'of light' anymore.  What the bloody hell were these people playing at?  Looking back over his shoulder his anger mounted as his eyes lingered on the still form of his lover.  

Spike turned back to study the sword, floating in midair before him.  The words etched in stone behind the mythic weapon were a mockery to him, but he consigned them to memory in order to repeat them to Giles later.  Reaching up he grasped the hilt, and pulled.  The sword came away easily, the flame licking at his skin but not burning.

Still crying tears of anger, longing and hopelessness Spike began to turn away.  A bright glow halted him and he turned back.  A bowl sat just below where the sword had been hanging.  Spike hadn't noticed it before and would have passed it by had it not been for the glow.

Looking inside he saw one lone seed.  He studied the wall again to see if the words had changed but there was no difference.  He studied the bowl but found no markings on that either, and there was no placard beside it.  Was he supposed to take the seed as well?  Shrugging, he pocketed the seed.  Might as well take every fucking thing in the room after what it cost him, he thought bitterly.  Then he picked up Xander and walked out.


The girls were crying.  He'd arrived back in Sunnydale several hours ago and broken the news.  They'd laid Xander out in Joyce's old bedroom, the blood still staining his clothes.  Spike wanted to go back to their place and get him something to change into.  Something to make him look less...gone.  But Giles wanted to go over it one more time.  He almost growled.

Not that Giles hadn't cared about his boy.  The tears fell from the Watcher's eyes even as he asked another question.  But he was a Watcher, and he was Giles.  He did what he had to do.  

"Tell me again what the etched words said?"

"Watcher, I already told you twice!  Give me a bloody piece of paper and I'll write the fucking joke down for you."  He grabbed for a pen and rewrote the words he'd memorized.

"Two heroes immortal?"  Giles' brow scrunched together.  "But Xan..."

Giles was cut off by a menacing growl.  "Don't you think I've thought of that?  Travers must have sent the wrong Claimants, because we obviously couldn't get the job done."

"But...sniffle...even if Xander hadn't...he still wasn't - " Willow began

"I know!"  Spike shouted.  "He wasn't immortal!  Don't you think I know how bloody fucking obvious that is!"

Willow started to cry harder and Spike found it in himself to be just a little bit sorry.  Willow had always been Xander's favorite.  "I'm sorry, luv," he muttered softly.

"Was this all you brought back with you?"  Giles broke in.

"That and the seed," Spike answered, not looking up.

"Seed?"  Giles looked around the room.  "What seed?"

"Here, 's in my pocket.  Forgot earlier."  Spike handed over the tiny black kernel.

"It's an apple seed," Giles said wonderingly.  Then a look of astonishment crossed his features.  "Good God!"

Spike watched as Giles rushed out to grab one of his back breaking tomes.  When he returned, Spike was surprised to see which tome he'd retrieved.

"You've brought back the flaming sword."  Giles' voice was excited.  Something that Spike resented seeing as how nothing should be exciting anymore.

"Yeah, so?"

Then Giles began to read from the book.

"After he drove man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life."  (Genesis 3:24, NIV)

"What?  You think we brought back the sword that used to guard the Garden of Eden?"  Spike asked, incredulous.

"Not the Garden, Spike.  It guarded the path to the tree of life.  The tree that gave immortality," Giles answered, holding up the seed.

"What are you saying?  Is there a way to bring Xander back?"  Spike jumped to his feet to confront Giles.

"Yes, I believe there is," the Watcher answered calmly.

Spike sat back down so abruptly he almost fell off the couch onto the floor.  "How?"

"The seed is the key.  Not only will it bring him back, but it will make him immortal."  

Eternity with Xander?  Spike couldn't dare to hope, but his spirits rose nonetheless.  Then another thought occurred and his expression darkened once more.  "But Xander's a white hat."  The other's nodded, not understanding.  "He's dead.  He'll be in heaven.  What right do we have to pull him out and plunk him back down here forever?"

"Yes, well, I'm afraid there's no way to ask his permission," Giles answered.  "But if bringing him back is the only way to save the world, do you think he wouldn't do it?"

"I've got to think."  Spike stood, strode through the living room and out the back door.  Spike strolled through the neighborhood, not really paying much attention to what was going on around him.  What would Xander want?  Oh God, to have him back again.  Forever.  That was all Spike had ever wanted.

But would Xander resent him?  Hate him?  For bringing him back.  For taking him away from heaven and forcing him to live here on earth, with a demon?  Could Spike take it if he did?

Were they really the only hope of saving the world?  Damn fucking prophecies!  If they were, Spike knew what Xander's answer would be.  He was and forever will be a white hat.  

Spike started back toward the house.  Entering the front door he saw that everyone was still huddled in the living room.  "Let's do it."  The three words were said in a monotone rush of sound.  Then Spike turned and went up the stairs to wait with his lover.

Part Sixteen

Spike could hear the others gathering the things they would need for the spell.  They would be up the stairs and in this room in just a few minutes.

He looked down at Xander's body, studying his face.  At least there weren't any lines of pain visible there.  Spike shuddered at the agony Xander must have gone through when the spear had pierced his body.  

The vampire reached out and gently took hold of Xander's cold hand, letting his thumb trace circles on the open palm.  "Xander, luv, if you can hear me..." Spike's voice trailed off for just a second as he tilted his head back, as though trying to stare through the ceiling at the heavens above.  "I don't know if we're doing the right thing, if I made the right choice.  But I want you to know that I tried.  That I wanted to do right by you, for you."  Spike's free hand ran roughshod through the mass of curls atop his head.  "Please believe me, Xan.  I love you."  He got in a quick peck on cold lips before the others arrived.  Quietly he wiped away the last traces of his tears as Angel walked in carrying the sword.

At least they knew why the two hereos were of 'necessity' immortal.  None of the others could even touch the sword.  The flame burned dangerously hot for everyone but Spike and Angel.  If Angel's demon didn't preclude him of being 'of the light', Spike would have suggested the two of them fulfill the prophecy.  But no matter how many people Angel helped, he would forever be 'dark', at least while his demon remained.

Spike took a moment to wonder at the irony.  Two demons, previously the Scourge of Europe, were currently charged with the protection and proper use of a mythic holy weapon.  A weapon, Spike assumed, forged by God himself.  Not only that, but they were about to steal away one of God's flock.  To bring back a white hat, out of God's kingdom, in order to prevent the destruction of a world that God created.

Holy fucking irony.

The others were piling into the room.  All except Dawn and Buffy, who were downstairs waiting, probably impatiently, but neither were needed for the ceremony.  And both would probably just get in the way.  Spike wasn't strictly necessary either, although Spike or Angel were needed to hold the sword.  But there was no way in hell Spike was going to leave Xander's side until the ritual was complete.  Until Xander's eyes fluttered open and he realized what they'd done.

Spike tuned out the sounds around him, concentrating only on Xander's still form.  The sounds of Willow and Tara's chanting buzzed about his ears, but he ignored it.  Through the corner of his eye Spike saw Angel lower the sword, pointing the tip of the blade at the seed Giles had placed in an ornamental bowl.  A lick of heated flame shot out and engulfed the bowl, setting the seed and the immediate air around it on fire.  

The sound of chanting grew louder, joined now by Giles' low, masculine voice.  The noise increased until Spike wanted to cover his ears, and then suddenly the flame surrounding the seed flared upwards into a column of fire.  It burned steadily for several minutes until all chanting ceased, then it finally redirected itself.  In a snaking path it made its way toward Xander and enveloped his entire body, making Spike cry out in alarm.  

Xander's body convulsed once, twice, before collapsing back on to the bed, as the flame extinguished.  Amazingly, Xander's body had been left completely unmarked by the fire, though his clothes were now cinders.  Reverently, Spike's hand shot out to cover the area the spear had wounded, which was now fully healed.  More tears sprang to Spike's eyes, and he wiped at them furiously.  Bugger!  He hadn't cried this much since he'd been mortal.

Xander groaned, his head thrashing on the pillow.  Spike quickly retrieved a blanket to cover him, not wanting his love to wake and find himself naked in front of all his friends.  Spike grabbed for Xander's hand as he reached out, eyes still closed.  The thrashing finally ceased, and Xander let out a harsh sigh on a ragged breath.Xander's eyes fluttered open and Spike waited for him to speak.  Holding his hand, and gazing into his dilated pupils, Spike remained silent.  

{Spike?}  Xander's eyes wandered the room, taking in the other occupants, but he did not speak aloud.

Spike was almost floored by the intensity of feeling he suffered from hearing Xander's mind voice after having thought the boy was gone forever.  He bit his lip until blood gushed to stave off another bout of tears.  {Yes, luv.  I'm sorry.}

Xander nodded and turned away, Spike's heart breaking.  Spike stood and ushered everybody out of the room.  They went grudgingly, Willow stopping long enough to kiss Xander on the cheek and burst into tears.  The boy smiled reassuringly and squeezed her hand, but didn't say a word.

When they were all finally gone, Spike sat down once more, this time in a chair beside the bed.  He kept his distance, even though everything in him screamed at him to touch his mate.  Xander watched him, his eyes trailing the vampire's movements, but still he said nothing.

Finally Xander blinked, and swallowed.  His words sounded harsh, as if his mouth were dry and his throat sore.  "How long?"

"Two and half days.  How long for you?"

"Longer."  Xander swallowed again, his adam's apple bobbing in his throat.

"Was it...what was it like?"  Spike finally asked.

"It was...different.  Quiet, peaceful."  Xander sighed and turned away.  "As if there was nothing left for me to worry about.  I finally could just...be, you know?"

"God, luv.  I'm sorry!"  Spike let the silent tears roll down his face.  Was this any better than turning him?  Spike had been right the first time.  There was nothing, nothing worse than having Xander here with him, and hating him.  

"For what?"  Spike was thrown by the genuine sincerity in the question.

"For what?!"  The vampire repeated, incredulously.  "For bringing you back, for taking you from that peaceful place.  For putting you back here, to fight, and worry, and...fucking save the world again!"

Xander only shook his head.  "You didn't do anything, Spike."  Xander reached for his hand.  "If I was meant to come back, I was meant to come back.  One way or another it would have happened.  And I'm grateful for the time I did have in that place.  In heaven, or whatever it was.  It was beautiful."  Xander's expression was wistful.  "But I know I'm needed here.  So I'm glad I'm back.  I just need some time to adjust."

"So, you don't hate me, luv?"  Spike asked, his voice small and remarkably vulnerable.

"No!"  Xander's answer was immediate, as was his reaction.  He grabbed Spike's hand and hauled the vampire to the bed, wrapping him up in an embrace.  "God, no.  I love you, you know that."

Spike was crying, his shoulders shaking as he hugged Xander back.  They stayed that way for a long time, until finally Spike pulled away.  "There's something you still don't know, Xan."  Spike braced himself for Xander's response.  "We didn't just bring you back, luv.  You're here to stay.  You're immortal.  It was the only way."

"Immortal?"  Spike couldn't read the look on Xander's face.  "You mean like that guy from Highlander?"

Spike barked out a laugh.  Only Xander would think of his life in terms of a television show.  "Sort of, luv.  But I doubt there are going to be any others showing up to take your head."  Then his eyes turned serious.  "But if they do, I'll be here, right beside you to stop them."

Xander smiled, his mouth curving up in a lazy grin.  "I know you will."  Then he kissed him.  Spike was on such an emotional roller coaster that he wasn't even sure what he was feeling at the simple sensation of Xander's lips against his own.  God, he thought he'd never feel those warm lips again.  He hardened immediately, his hand stealing out to touch Xander's naked chest.

"Xan, pet, I need you."  Spike muttered, his hands already pulling the blanket off his lover.  "God, luv, I thought you were gone.  I thought I'd never be with you again."  And then he was crying again.  "Fuck!  I'm such a nancy boy."  He swiped at the tears, momentarily forgetting his mission to have Xander hard and inside him.

Instead of disagreeing Xander only pushed Spike's hands out of the way and began to kiss at the falling tears.  And then Spike found himself on the bed, underneath Xander, being kissed and fondled and loved.  He'd somehow gotten his shirt and pants off, and could feel Xander's hard cock brushing against his own leaking penis.  He groaned loudly and spread his legs further, lifting them until he could secure them over Xander's shoulders.

"Please, luv.  Need you inside me.  Need to feel you.  To feel your life, your seed, God!"  Spike cried out, desperate to feel his lover.  To know that he was alive, and that this wasn't just a wickedly torturous dream.

Xander fumbled around until he found Spike's discarded jeans, digging in the pocket until he found what he was looking for.  He pulled the small tube out with a triumphant smile and then got to work readying his mate.  

The feel of Xander's warm fingers sliding in and out of him almost made Spike cum right then and there.  But he gritted his teeth and held on, determined to have his lover inside him before he came.  Before Xander could toss the tube aside and enter Spike, the vampire started begging for absolution, which nearly broke Xander's heart.  "Luv, please, I'm sorry.  I'm sorry.  God, I'm sorry!"  Spike couldn't seem to get the words out fast enough.  "I'm such a selfish fucking git.  They said we needed you, but I did it for myself as much as for the world.  I couldn't let you go.  God, I'm sorry!"

Xander thrust until he was all the way inside, his balls slapping against Spike's cool flesh.  "Shhh.  Spike, shhh.  There's nothing to be sorry about.  I love you.  I love you."  Xander repeated those three words over and over again, all the while thrusting in and out in a slow rhythm.

"Xan, you died for me."  The words were whispered in awe.  "You gave your life up, for me."

"I love you," was Xander's only response.

And then they stopped talking altogether.  The only sounds were grunts and moans of pleasure.  Xander's rhythm increased, his hand reached down to grasp Spike's cock and pump it furiously.  The vampire whimpered and met each hard thrust, his eyes open and watching his lover's face.  They both exploded together, crying out each other's names.  

"I love you, too."  Spike declared before they both drifted off to sleep, limbs entangled, and arms wrapped around one another.

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